A Spoonful of Change

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Wow, y’all. Life is a rollercoaster. My last Waiting on Wednesday post was a pre-scheduled post that I wrote at the end of March, so I haven’t written anything for the blog in about a month. To be honest, I feel like April kind of disappeared in a haze, here and then gone.

Almost all of my goals for last month went up in smoke, too. Rocking out Camp NaNoWriMo with an awesome cabin? Forget 30,000 words; I ended up with 3.5k. Keeping up the blogging momentum? Well, you saw how that went. In April, I got swept away by some major things in my personal life. Weekend getaway with the boyfriend and him getting an awesome new job and moving waaay closer to me: whoo! Best friend slash Ann Perkins to my Leslie Knope getting an awesome new job and moving hours and a whole time zone away: awesome and also a huge bummer. I also ran into major mounting frustrations at work, and I’ve been having a hard time not bringing my negativity home with me at the end of the day.

All month, I was either completely wrapped up with the big events happening for the people in my life or completely drained, stressed, and upset from a day at my job. Because of that, a lot of things I needed or wanted to do in my personal life fell by the wayside. I was letting outside factors take away my passion and excitement, and I needed a change.

Around the same time I realized that, my roommate and I had a conversation about habits. After his breakup, I had advised him that getting over someone came down to changing your mental habits: retraining your brain to stop always running paths to that person and to redirect to other subjects more often. He took that to heart, did some research on habits, and came back to me with ideas. Apparently, the best way to break a habit is to either apply a negative experience to it (ie; quit chewing your nails by wearing nail polish that tastes bad, so chewing the nails becomes extra unpleasant) or is to simply form new, better habits.

He also decided that the best way to form a new habit is to do it daily for a week. He started getting up half an hour earlier to go run in the morning, and it’s working so far. Now, he’s planning the next good habit to start.

I know I need to break out of some of my mental habits. It’s time for me to embrace positivity and gratitude; to live my life more intentionally, and not at the mercy of what’s going on around me. It’s time to make new habits.

So, starting last week, I adopted a new goal: doing at least fifteen push-ups per day. It’s a baby step, something easy and practical, that I can do any time I think of it. It’s something good for me. Something that, with enough persistence, I can see tangible results from. Something to make me feel accomplished and strong.

Today marks exactly one week of doing them. Some days, I even do more or feel inspired to do some other quick exercises, too. In the scheme of things, it’s only a tiny spoonful of change. But it also is a cornerstone, a place for me to continue to build. This is a commitment to myself, to my passions, to the things that matter. It’s also a fresh commitment to all the other things I dream of doing and love doing. It’s a pledge to keep reinventing myself for the better.

It’s also a refresh for my commitment to this blog. This is something I enjoy immensely, and in the month of May, it is something I will consciously make the time for.

Fifteen push-ups. Less than a minute. Just a spoonful of change. But I’m going to savor it, and one spoonful of something good almost always precedes another.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Seafarer’s Kiss

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights highly anticipated upcoming releases.

When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a marine biologist. That was mostly because “mermaid” was not a viable career goal. After the vampire and werewolf crazes started to fizzle out, I noticed a brief spike in mermaid-themed YA books. To my disappointment, none of them seemed very good.

Imagine my delight to know that the world is about to receive a Norse retelling of The Little Mermaid in The Seafarer’s Kiss, by Julia Embers. Yes, you read that right. Norse mermaids. With a helping of lesbian romance, and a trickster god on top. There could possibly exist a book that is even more of a custom-tailored Sea read than this, but I really doubt it. Look forward to this gem from Duet Books on May 4th!32890474

Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

A Crown of Wishes Release: Meeting Roshani Chokshi & Ryan Graudin!

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My rad local independent bookstore introduced me to up-and-coming YA author Roshani Chokshi in December by featuring her Indian mythology-inspired fantasy debut, The Star-Touched Queen, as the pick-of-the-month for the YA Book Club. I got around to reading it just in time for her to come into town! She and Ryan Graudin, author of Wolf by Wolf, were touring together for the March 28th release of the companion to Chokshi’s debut, A Crown of Wishes.

When the day came around, I had finished The Star-Touched Queen and was four chapters into the companion. This was my first time going to an author event, and I was absurdly nervous! Like, I had literally been less nervous holding an alligator than stepping into the store for this event.

And no, this is not one of those times where I actually mean “figuratively.”

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I had no need to be jittery and tongue-tied, though; the event was awesome! The discussion was well-moderated by the Children’s curator of the store, and Chokshi was almost like a charismatic yakshini out of one of her books: graceful, friendly, confident, and literally sparkling in a star-studded night sky blouse.

Chokshi and Graudin are both Southern authors, and it was fascinating to hear how their heritage here has influenced their writing. Growing up in a place with such a double-edged culture and a dark, problematic history impressed upon Chokshi the idea of “genteel monsters,” a theme threaded heavily into A Crown of Wishes. In a culture that placed extreme emphasis on manners, politeness, and upholding social mores, she recounted, it didn’t matter if your worst enemy showed up at your door; you still invited them in for lemonade and offered to fix them some food. To me, that’s the crux of her Otherworld: appearances and illusions can mean everything, and yet nothing at all. The Otherworld may bring the concept to the extreme, but her characters also realize that leaving the realm of fantasy and magic doesn’t make appearances any less deceitful.

This idea is also going to be central to her next series. The Gilded Wolves is going to be about power dynamics and cultural appropriation in the height of the Age of Imperialism.

“I use the world ‘gilded’ very intentionally,” she said, to describe an externally flourishing and beautiful city and culture built around a rotten core. This series sounds epic, and the first installment is expected to hit the shelves in 2018.

Graudin, meanwhile, said her childhood in Charleston and her many travels since have given her writing a strong sense of place. She loves teasing out the most unique aspects of a place and trying to breathe life into it in her books. When the topic of ideas for future books came up, she mentioned a long-held “story kernel” for a book honoring her hometown.

“The elevator pitch for this one,” she said, “is Southern Gothic meets a Miyazaki film.”

Sold. I don’t even need to know anything else about it; the second that book exists on a shelf, I’m buying it!

I’m bummed out that I hadn’t read any of her books before attending the event. Graudin was reflective, thoughtful, incredibly passionate in speaking about her writing, and full of elevator pitches that put her books way-high on my reading lists. I haven’t even read Wolf by Wolf yet, but I already told two friends that I was going to force them to read it after I do. That’s how awesome this book sounds.

My favorite part of the night was when Chokshi told us how difficult the writing process for her second book was. Whenever her characters acted up and frustrated her, she wrote horrible deaths for them, ended the chapter, and quit writing for the night. “Stay dead and think about what you’ve done!” she joked. Unfortunately, fellow writers, she advised that putting them in a death time-out and reviving them in the morning didn’t actually improve their behavior. I’m sure it was satisfying, though!

At the end of it all, I got my shiny new copy of A Crown of Wishes signed. If you get the chance, I would totally recommend supporting these two wonderful writers!

Book Review: A Crown of Wishes

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“Stories are boundless and infinite, ever-changing and elusive[….] They are the truest treasure and therefore my dearest possessions.”

So confides a character in Roshani Chokshi’s sophomore novel before urging, “Give me a tale worth telling.”

In A Crown of Wishes, Chokshi has done exactly that. This story is sweet and multi-layered, a companion that surpasses its predecessor. Even if The Star-Touched Queen wasn’t for you, this book is worth your time!

29939047An ancient mystery. An unlikely union. For one young princess in a state of peril, a dangerous wish could be the only answer…

She is the princess of Bharata—captured by her kingdom’s enemies, a prisoner of war. Now that she faces a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. But should she trust Vikram, the notoriously cunning prince of a neighboring land? He promises her freedom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together they can team up and win the Tournament of Wishes, a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor. It seems like a foolproof plan—until Gauri and Vikram arrive at the tournament and find that danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans, mischievous story birds, a feast of fears, and twisted fairy revels. New trials will test their devotion, strength, and wits. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

As soon as we met fierce, no-nonsense grown-up Gauri in the latter half of The Star-Touched Queen, I was dying to tear into her story. I am not at all disappointed. This is a longing, loving story of heroes, tender romance, and figuring out who you really are and what mark you want to leave on the world.

Chokshi’s writing is just the right amount gorgeous. Her sentences conjure lush, illuminated scenes of the Otherworld around you like she did in her debut, but her style and vision are greatly refined here. I didn’t find myself lost or disoriented when following the setting or action like I occasionally did in The Star-Touched Queen. Instead, I was pulled effortlessly through this book by the winning cast, intriguing plot, and heartwarming entwining of so many tales into one.

Gauri and Vikram are characters I want to hug. Each of them is phenomenally written, but together, they shine even more. Gauri is stubborn, loyal, and guarded, always burdened by worry that she won’t be able to protect the people she loves and guilt that she has failed far too many of them. Vikram’s wit and inventiveness mask his worry that he will never be given the chance to fulfill his potential. They both recognize and own their flaws, growing by accepting and learning to live with their shortcomings, not shoving them into the past and forgetting them. They also fill the pages of this book with some of the best banter I’ve read in a long time and an aching, adorable, wistful romance.

They aren’t the only ones here with a story worth telling. Their quest is epic, filled with page-turning twists, engrossing developments, and plenty of action. But they also weave through so many other tales of wishing, regret, and redemption. A Crown of Wishes is not only a compelling story about myths, magic, and monsters of all varieties. It feels whole in a special way, with its own pulse and life: a book about choosing to write your own story, and not just live it.


All in All…

  • 5/5 sea stars
  • Published March 28th, 2017, by St. Martin’s Griffin
  • 352 pages
  • For fans of Laini Taylor, mythology, Howl’s Moving Castle, Maggie Stiefvater’s Books of Faerie, Graceling

Stacking the Shelves: Library Sales & my True Book Love

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Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, dedicated to showing off all the wonderful new book treasures that we hoard bring into our lives.

Between a good library trip, a few bookstore purchases, and a huge used book sale/library fundraiser today, my bookshelf is feeling a little more full! I’m so excited for all these bound pages of goodness, I just had to share.

Click above for the slideshow of full-sized pics!

Library Books

Went to return books; accidentally came home with the modern magical realism trifecta: The Weight of Feathers, When the Moon was Ours, and The Night Circus.

 Bought Books

Got a copy of A Crown of Wishes at an author event with Roshani Chokshi and got it signed! Also ordered Caraval to have it when I definitely go to that book club this time (*crosses fingers*) and Three Dark Crowns because I can’t stop thinking about this book, and a re-read is a certainty.

Library Big Book Sale!

One of the local libraries does a fundraiser sale twice a year, and today was the day! For all of $6, I snagged Ever the Hunted, Persepolis, The Mists of Avalon, a new-to-me Michael Pollan book about human-nature interactions, and an excellent Audobon Society field guide overview of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Honestly, it’s the field guide that I’m most excited about. It’s in great condition, and it is a freaking steal at $1. Field guides are my favorite, favorite books, and this one has the basics of everything I could ever want to look up at the beach! Today, I am a most happy Sea.


What about you?

Any great books come into your life lately? Am I the only one who could sing ballads to a good field guide?

Probably, yes.

Monthly Wrap-Up: March 2017

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This has been slightly waylaid by silly things like a cold and a basketball championship, but happy April, y’all! The April showers are in full effect here, and the aforementioned silly things have seriously undermined the beginning of Camp NaNoWriMo for me. Here’s hoping I can catch up. Anyway, March was a heck of a month in my life. Let’s get wrapping.

Last Month in My Life:

I had a birthday, and surprise of surprises, my amazing boyfriend drove 10 hours to spend my birthday weekend with me! I also got to see my folks, watch my lil’ brother play a college lacrosse game, and take my sweetheart to dinner with my extended family. Right after he went home was our two year anniversary. I also got cleared at work to handle my second raptor, an adorable screech owl named Otus. At the end of the month, though, my grandfather passed away. It was a long time coming, but it still sucks. What a month.

Last Month in Books:

  • Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater: nostalgic; pretty werewolf instalove. img_3181img_3181img_3181img_3181
  • A Single Stone, by Meg McKinlay: gritty; unique; hero girl spelunkers. (review)     img_3181img_3181img_3181img_3181img_3181
  • The Star-Touched Queen, by Roshani Chokshi: fairytale whimsy; lord of death; a horse demon. (review) img_3181img_3181img_3181img_3181
  • A Charm of Goldfinches, by Matt Sewell: animals+linguistic quirks. img_3181img_3181img_3181img_3181img_3181
  • Come Be Wild With Me, by Kristen Maxwell: creepy outdoor people. (review) img_3181img_3181
  • The Blue Hour, by Isabelle Simler: many blue animals! (review) img_3181img_3181img_3181img_3181
  • The Queen of the Frogs, by Davide Cali: anti-monarchical frogs. (review) img_3181img_3181img_3181
  • Magic Words, by Edward Field: illustrated Inuit poem! (review) img_3181img_3181img_3181img_3181img_3181

Last Month in Posts:

All of the above reviews, including some for children’s books, plus:

Around the Blogosphere:

I found some more great blogs to follow, so my reader was full of wonderful posts in March!

In the Works:

  • Update on meeting Roshani Chokshi & Ryan Graudin!
  • Finally a review of Three Dark Crowns, maybe
  • WoW: The Seafarer’s Kiss
  • A review of A Crown of Wishes

And you, dear reader?

Much love,

Sea

Waiting on Wednesday: The Upside of Unrequited

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights highly anticipated upcoming releases.

I read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda last year and loved it, in which I am far from alone.

I’m perpetually late to the party, but I’m sure I’m also not alone in having completely missed that Becky Albertalli has a new book coming out this month!

The Upside of Unrequited sounds amazing. On its own, the plot seems fun and heartwarming. All the reviews I have read say that Molly is a character you can’t help but love, and that Albertalli brings the wit and humor just as strongly here as in her debut. Even better, though, this book is going to be the diversity mother load! It includes diversity of: race, religion, sexual orientation, body type, family structure, mental health, and probably even more.

It seems like Albertalli is on her way to becoming a YA contemporary mainstay. Look for Upside out on April 11th, and most likely another novel from her in 2018!

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unreq30653853uited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?